WE ARE HOMETOWN NEWS.

WARE — Following a presentation by Superintendent Michael Lovato, the Ware School Committee voted to approve the fiscal year 2025 budget at its April 24 meeting.

The final budget has a 3.86% increase from the FY24 budget and includes multiple changes at each school as well as on the district level in order to address areas of need, Lovato stated. While these changes do include the relocation of staff, the total number of staff in the School Department has not been altered, he said.

At Stanley M. Koziol Elementary School, the total budget is $3.9 million. Changes at this building include the reduction of a speech-language pathology assistant, due to a low case load, while a special education adjustment teacher will be added to address a greater need, Lovato said.

Ware Middle School’s $2.6 million budget accommodates the reduction of a math coach and two special education teachers. These gaps will be supported by the addition of a response to intervention teacher and a paraprofessional, Lovato noted.

For Ware Junior Senior High School, the FY25 budget is $5.1 million. This includes the addition of an assistant principal specifically for grade 7-8 students, as well as shared elective teachers with the middle school, Lovato said. One elective teacher and one paraprofessional will be reduced.

“Right now our kids are not getting art; [physical education], and computers is what they’re getting, but even P.E. they’re getting for a quarter then they get shifted out and so this [the shared elective teacher] will allow our kids to stay in P.E. for a semester, in some cases even a year if it’s needed,” Lovato explained.

Finally, at the district level, a school psychologist is being reduced in favor of adding a board-certified behavior analyst. A social worker for pre-K to grade 6 will also be added and a maintenance supervisor will transfer to become a custodian supervisor, Lovato stated.

One significant change within the FY25 budget is the reduction in student bus routes. Currently, about 530 students use bus transportation each day to and from their school, Lovato stated. In this model, bus rides in the morning average 48 minutes and, in the evening, 39 minutes.

With the approved budget’s elimination of two bus routes, the average riding time will decrease in the morning to 45 minutes, he said. However, after-school rides will increase slightly to 46 minutes.

“This is not a typo, we double-checked it with the transportation company today. Some of the stops change on the proposal based on the ridership and where they are in the kids aging out, that our bus time actually decreases by three minutes on the average ride time in the morning,” Lovato said.

He added, “The transportation company concurred with us that what we’re asking for is responsible. It’s not extreme. It’s not going to have an impact that is going to change people’s schedules or really hurt people in any way,” he explained. “It is going to have a significant amount of savings to the district and I do believe that’s the responsible decision as well as we move forward.”

Superintendent evaluation

During the meeting, School Committee Chair Brian Winslow also reviewed the committee’s finalized superintendent evaluation. This process began in January with the committee’s selection of a new evaluation process, rather than the state’s five-step process.

School Committee members Aaron Sawabi, Chris Desjardins, Julie Slattery and Winslow all participated in Lovato’s evaluation. New member Michael DuBois did not participate since the process largely took place before his election, Winslow explained.

In the evaluation, committee members looked at six areas: student growth and achievement, organizational leadership, district operations and financial management, communications and community relations, human resource management, and professionalism, Winslow stated.

Within each of these areas, members evaluated multiple indicators across four levels. These were distinguished, proficient, needs improvement and failing. In five of the six areas, three School Committee members ranked Lovato “distinguished” and one member ranked his ability as “proficient,” according to Winslow’s report.

One difference was for human resource management, which two members each ranked Lovato “distinguished” and “proficient,” Winslow stated.

In the evaluation’s comments, members highlighted how Lovato has worked to support students but that, due to the nature of testing data, it was still unclear whether his goals have been met. Despite this, members emphasized Lovato’s inclusive, confident approach to his position, his ability to prioritize students and form positive relationships, and his cooperation with the town, as stated in the report.

While discussing strengths, School Committee members stated that Lovato was decisive, displayed strong leadership skills and was passionate about providing education.

Alternatively, in areas of needed improvement, members highlighted that Lovato occasionally shares an excess of information. “While the information provided is sometimes overwhelming, as a general rule, transparency and over-communication is much more beneficial than a lack of transparency,” Winslow read from the evaluation.

The report also noted that Lovato should work to improve the administration’s relationship with the union and to focus on “developing confidence from the staffing community,” Winslow read.

Following Winslow’s presentation of the evaluation, Lovato thanked the committee members for sharing their feedback and said he was “always open to constructive criticism.”

lmason@thereminder.com | + posts